The Essential Guide To Diabetes Care Health Supplements

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Overview

Malaysia has the highest rate of diabetes in Asia, and one of the highest in the world. This is largely contributed by large intake of sugar in our diets and physical inactivity.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a medical condition where the sugar level in your blood remains above the normal level. This can lead to many complications which can be debilitating and even fatal.

Before we move into what supplements are helpful for diabetic patients, let’s look at some of the important players involved in regulating your blood sugar level.

  1. Insulin: This is an enzyme which is responsible for using the carbohydrates you eat and converting it as energy for your daily activities. It also plays the role of storing excess sugar for future use. This ensures that the sugar level in your blood is always maintained within the normal range.
  2. Pancreas: This is the factory for your insulin. Without a healthy pancreas, insulin production is decreased and this can widely affect your blood sugar level.

People with diabetes have 2 main problems: either the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or insulin doesn’t work as well in the body (insulin resistance). Both these scenarios cause sugar to build up in the bloodstream.

So now we know what are important for your blood sugar regulation, let’s dive into the different ingredients found in supplements for diabetic patients:

Bittergourd

Bittergourd, or bitter melon, is the edible part of the vine of the Cucurbitaceae family and is considered to be the most bitter among all vegetables. Known as karela in India, this vegetable contains 3 main substances which potentially helps in lowering blood glucose level.

  • Charanti
  • Vicine
  • Polypeptide P (resembles insulin)

Together, bittergourd helps your cells to convert more glucose to energy. It also prevents nutrients stored in the body from being converted to glucose. This synergistically decreases the blood sugar in the body.

Gymnema Sylvestre

Despite its intimidating name, Gymnema sylvestre has been in use for many years in the medical field, especially in India. This climbing shrub has been used in treating ailments such as diabetes and snakebite. Gymnema leaves contain a unique substance called gymnemic acid which can temporarily alter the ability to taste sweetness. This makes foods high in sugar less appealing and thus indirectly decreases the consumer’s intake of sweet foods and drinks. Gymnema is also thought to decrease the rate of absorption of glucose in the body, hence preventing a spike in blood sugar level after a meal.   

Cinnamon

You might think that using cinnamon to treat diabetes is counterintuitive, but this note that this is referring to the ingredient in its raw form rather than the sugary rolls you see in bakeries. Cinnamon is a spice which is derived from the inner bark of the wild cinnamon tree branches. Cinnamon exerts its antidiabetic properties by mimicking insulin. Remember, diabetics lack insulin in the body and this function of cinnamon helps to move glucose into the cells. Cinnamon also helps increase insulin sensitivity of the cells in the body.

Fenugreek

Fenugreek, or methi, is an aromatic plant which is used both in culinary and medicinal fields. The seed is the one which is beneficial when it comes to diabetes. It contains high amount of soluble fibre and this helps to lower blood sugar level by slowing down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates in the body. 

Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice well known and used around the world. It is usually ingested in the form of a spice or tea. The active ingredient which gives it most of its benefit is known as curcumin. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which is why it is often used in supplements targeting inflammation. In diabetes, oxidative stress in the cells can lead to insulin insensitivity. This is where turmeric plays its role in protecting these cells with its antioxidant properties.

Chromium

Chromium, or trivalent chromium specifically, is a trace element present in the body. Chromium supplements usually contain chromium in small quantities and despite the minute amount, it has the ability to improve blood sugar level. It enhances the effect of insulin in the body and aids in glucose metabolism into energy. This decreases blood sugar level in general.

What happens if I don’t control my sugar?

Maintaining your blood sugar level within the normal range is extremely important. In patients who have poorly controlled blood sugar levels, complications might arise and often times these conditions can be quite severe if not managed or treated.

Diabetic Neuropathy

Neuro refers to your nerves and –pathy refers to disease. When the sugar level in your blood is high, it damages the nerves in your body. And because you have nerves present all over your body, the effect can be quite extensive.

There are typically 2 types of neuropathy:

  • Peripheral neuropathy: This is the most common form of neuropathy and main symptoms include tingling, pain, weakness or numbness in the extremities.
  • Autonomic neuropathy: This affects organs such as your bladder, sexual organ, and intestinal tracts. As a result, one can suffer from erectile dysfunction and diarrhea as symptoms.

Foot complication

This is the reason why diabetes is sometimes referred to as penyakit potong kaki (foot amputation diseases). Due to damage to the nerves and numbness, a diabetic patient might not experience much pain or discomfort even when an ulcer develops due to injury or ill-fitting shoes. Poor blood circulation and a delay in wound healing causes the ulcer to be infected and this can worsen if not treated. In the end, the infection might progress into a serious stage and amputation might be needed in some cases.

Kidney problem

As blood flows through our kidneys, it gets filtered via really small channels. Waste products which are small enough to pass through the filters get excreted as urine. Bigger and more important molecules such as protein and red blood cells are not filtered and gets retained in the body. When our blood sugar level is too high, extra pressure is applied on these filters and after many years of straining, they start to leak and proteins get excreted in the urine. In the long run, the kidneys fail to filter well and wastes get trapped in the blood. This leads to kidney failure.

So, which should I take?

As there are many options available in the market to help in your blood sugar management, it is best to first consult your doctor or pharmacist before starting on one. This is because the antidiabetic medications you are taking might or might not be suitable with some of the aforementioned ingredients.

Feel free to browse through our extensive list of supplements to help control your blood sugar, or don’t hesitate to seek advice from our friendly pharmacists via telepharmacy.